“Cowboy Pop”, a musical production based on the true story of a Texas bank robbery, which successfully robbed four banks before being killed by politics.
Friday night was the first of two public shows for the workshop at the Hal & Martha Hyer Wallis Theater on the Northwestern campus and was produced by the American Music Theater Project (AMTP). Annie Tibby.
The workshop was a reading with dialogue and singing of songs, not a full-fledged musical production.
There were no costumes except for a cowboy hat or two, and no real props except for sunglasses or a closed soda can. Northwestern representatives, all students, read their dialogue from open texts; The poet has sung one song since I wrote it earlier in the day.
The trio (Murphy, Phillips, and Tippi) have made this musical for the past six years, refining the plot, revising and rewriting songs and dialogue, and refining the lyrics. It was hard work for women, mentally exhausting, always dependent on their friendships and connections, always looking for gifts to give them sustenance and temporary shelter so that the rough idea at last became the musical idea they saw in their hearts and minds.
The workshop is more difficult for the audience to assimilate: one’s imagination must fill in the missing details that are usually provided by the production stage. But watching a workshop is like watching a painter paint on a blank canvas or a sculptor opening a character trapped in marble. It allows the viewer to see the creative process in real time, which can be chaotic, confusing, and full of questions.
The woman known as Cowboy Bob, Peggy Jo Talas, has been quoted as saying that her favorite movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. One is also reminded of “Thelma and Louise” and Peggy Lee’s 1969 torch song, “Is That All There Is?”
A talented cast of 10 actors and two musicians relayed scenes illustrated by stage directions and notes that were read aloud to the audience.
Everyone on stage so aptly expressed the boredom and sense of ‘death’ that each character had in some way, versus the need to do something – anything – important. After Northwestern’s show on Saturday evening, the creators travel to Houston, Texas in preparation for the 2023 World Premiere at Houston’s Alley Theater.